MIDTOWN — A dozen cab drivers were charged with using stolen credit card information to steal nearly $40,000 from victims, officials said Thursday.
Most of the drivers would switch their meters to “Rate 5,” a negotiated fare outside the five boroughs, to charge the stolen cards up to $499 for the phantom trips, which would often last less than a minute, according to the city’s Department of Investigation. The cabbies took more than 100 fake rides during the scam.
“These taxi drivers turned their cabs into a crime scene. They exploited their taxi’s electronic payment systems to run up thousands of dollars in fake charges for fake rides, according to the charges,” DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said in a statement.
“Fortunately, the City vendors in charge of these electronic systems reported suspicious activity to DOI, which launched an investigation that uncovered and stopped this illegally charged conduct. I want to thank Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and his office for their work and partnership on this matter.”
The fraud took place between January and July 2015, and investigators spent months culling through “massive amounts of data from the City vendors regarding cabs and their drivers, and tracking down victims, some of whom lived outside of New York City,” a DOI spokeswoman said.
In one example, defendant Seck Lidial, 51, stole $7,916 during 25 fraudulent transactions from February to April 2015, according to DOI. None of his victims were in the city or taking taxis at the time of each fake ride.
Driver Jean Massango, 43, stole $6,148 during 14 rides, with his longest trip covering just 0.26 miles for a charge of $491, officials said.
Lidal and Massango were charged with grand larceny in the third degree, criminal possession of stolen property and are facing up to seven years in prison.
Janzeb Altaf, 22, of Queens is also facing the same charges.
Seven other people were charged with grand larceny in the fourth degree and criminal possession of stolen property and are facing up to four years in prison.
Those defendants were identified as Moulevais Balthazard, 28, of Brooklyn; Aboubaca Jalloh, 51, of Brooklyn; Marie Louissaint, 42, of Brooklyn; Maher Mansour, 56, of Queens; Alhadi Ragab-Hilal, 51, of Manhattan; Mouhamodou Seck, 59, of The Bronx; and Manjinder Singh, 25, of Queens.
Yahaya Diaby, 35, of Manhattan was also charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property after scamming $3,150. Diaby is facing up to seven years in prison.
Ibrahim Fofana, 40, of The Bronx was charged with grand larceny and is facing four years in prison for stealing $3,145.
Another man, Mamefall Seck, 58, was charged with impersonating his brother, Mouhamodou Seck, while driving his cab.
Each driver's TLC license was suspended after being arrested.
They were all expected to be arraigned in Queens Criminal Court Thursday night.
There was no immediate information on their lawyers.